THE END OF THE LINE

This riveting debut opens with seventh-grader Robbie Thompson locked in solitary confinement at Great Oaks School (or Prison, as Robbie refers to it), where he’s forced to meet required behavioral expectations to gain even basic needs. Readers soon learn that he’s been placed at the “end of the line” after violent outbursts at four other alternative schools—and that he killed his friend Ryan. Short, quick-paced chapters, some only one page long, alternate between Robbie’s time in school/prison and past events that led up to Ryan’s death. There are no black-and-white issues here; Ryan is not a likable kid. After Robbie, a respectful and diligent son and student whose favorite pastime is building a model town with his Uncle Grant, stands up to the bullying Ryan receives on his first day in their sixth grade, Ryan ingratiates himself with Robbie’s family. While Robbie’s parents see an impoverished boy who lives with his elderly grandparents, Robbie realizes that Ryan is evasive, manipulative and a liar. Adding to his growing hatred is a (little overblown) tyrant of a teacher who wrongfully casts Robbie as the troublemaker of the class. A demanding Great Oaks leader, group therapy with teens years ahead of him and analogies to Uncle Grant’s difficult choices as a soldier in Iraq help Robbie find responsibility and acceptance. A thought-provoking look at culpability and grief. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2287-6

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Stronger books may exist about the 1960s, but female friendship tales never go out of style.

BAD GIRLS NEVER SAY DIE

For “bad girls,” hell can be a place on Earth.

In Houston in the early ’60s, girls only seem to have two choices: be a good girl and get married or be a bad girl and live your life. Fifteen-year-old Evie, from a working-class White family, became a bad girl after her sister’s shotgun wedding took her away from home. Mexican American neighbor Juanita, who smokes, drinks, wears intense eye makeup, and runs with the tough crowd, takes Evie under her wing, but despite the loyalty of this new sisterhood, Evie often feels uncertain of her place. When a rich girl from the wealthy part of town named Diane saves Evie from assault by killing the attacker, Evie finds a new friend and, through that friendship, discovers her own courage. This work borrows a few recognizable beats from S.E. Hinton’s 1967 classic, The Outsiders—class tensions, friendship, death, and a first-person narrative that frequently employs the word tuff—but with a gender-swapped spin. Overall, the novel would have benefited from a stronger evocation of the setting. During an era of societal upheaval, Evie struggles to reconcile her frustration at the limited roles defined for her and her friends, with many moments of understanding and reflection that will resonate with modern readers’ sensibilities—although sadly she still victim blames herself for the attempted assault.

Stronger books may exist about the 1960s, but female friendship tales never go out of style. (author's note, resources) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23258-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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